In society, the nature of death and humanity's awareness of its own mortality has for millennia been a concern of the world's religious traditions and of philosophical inquiry. Literature has also been a tool for speaking and reflecting on the great mystery of life. Join us in these seven short stories specially selected by the critic August Nemo: The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin A Dead Woman's Secret by Guy De Maupassant The Sisters by James Joyce The Boarded Window by Ambrose Bierce The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy Odour of Chrysanthemums by D. H. Lawrence Laura by Saki
- Personal & social issues: death & bereavement (Children's / Teenage)
- Epub (Kobo), Epub (Adobe)
- Publication Date:
- Tacet Books
Kate Chopin was born in St Louis, Missouri on 8 Feb 1850. Born Katherine O'Flaherty, she grew up in a predominantly female household after her father died when she was just four years old. Her father was an Irish immigrant, and her mother was French Creole.
In 1870 she married Oscar Chopin, a local cotton trader, and together they had six children. In 1882 Oscar died from swamp fever, leaving Kate a widow with a large family to support, and the heir to his sizeable debts. She turned to writing in order to support her young family, publishing her first short story in 1889. A number of her works were subsequently published in literary magazines and popular American periodicals, including Vogue.
Chopin published only two novels in her lifetime: At Fault and The Awakening. The Awakening, published in 1899, was largely condemned as vulgar and immoral by critics of the time. Dismayed by such a harsh reception, Chopin cut short her brief career as a novelist, and for the remainder of her life focused solely on writing short stories, poetry and reviews. Kate Chopin died on 22 August 1904 from a brain haemorrhage.
Kate O'Flaherty was born on February 8, 1850, in St. Louis, of French and Irish ancestry. She was graduated from the St. Louis Academy of the Sacred Heart in 1868; two years later she married Oscar Chopin and went to live with him in New Orleans. They had five sons by 1878, and the following year they moved to Cloutierville, a tiny French village in Natchitoches Parish, in northwest Louisiana. There their last child and only daughter was born in 1879.
After Oscar's death in 1882, his widow ran their plantations and carried on a notorious romance with a married neighbour, but abruptly chose to return to St. Louis in 1884. Within five years she had begun her literary career, and during the next decade she published two novels - At Fault (1890) and The Awakening (1899) - and nearly a hundred short stories, poems, essays, plays and reviews.
Two volumes of short stories mostly set in the Cane River country of Louisiana, Bayou Folk (1894) and A Night in Acadie (1897) were acclaimed during her lifetime. But The Awakening, the story of a woman who has desires that marriage cannot fulfil, was widely condemned, and Chopin's publisher cancelled her third short-story collection, A Vocation and a Voice. Chopin died on August 22 1904.
James Joyce was born in Dublin on 2 February 1882, the eldest of ten children in a family which, after brief prosperity, collapsed into poverty. He was none the less educated at the best Jesuit schools and then at University College, Dublin, and displayed considerable academic and literary ability.
Although he spent most of his adult life outside Ireland, Joyce's psychological and fictional universe is firmly rooted in his native Dublin, the city which provides the settings and much of the subject matter for all his fiction.
He is best known for his landmark novel Ulysses (1922) and its controversial successor Finnegans Wake (1939), as well as the short story collection Dubliners (1914) and the semi-autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). James Joyce died in Zurich, on 13 January 1941.
Russian author, a master of realistic fiction and one of the world's greatest novelists.
Tolstoy is best known for his two longest works, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, which are commonly regarded as among the finest novels ever written. War and Peace in particular seems virtually to define this form for many readers and critics. Among Tolstoy's shorter works, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is usually classed among the best examples of the novella. Especially during his last three decades Tolstoy also achieved world renown as a moral and religious teacher. His doctrine of nonresistance to evil had an important influence on Gandhi. Although Tolstoy's religious ideas no longer command the respect they once did, interest in his life and personality has, if anything, increased over the years.
Most readers will agree with the assessment of the 19th-century British poet and critic Matthew Arnold that a novel by Tolstoy is not a work of art but a piece of life; the 20th-century Russian author Isaak Babel commented that, if the world could write by itself, it would write like Tolstoy. Critics of diverse schools have agreed that somehow Tolstoy's works seem to elude all artifice. Most have stressed his ability to observe the smallest changes of consciousness and to record the slightest movements of the body. What another novelist would describe as a single act of consciousness, Tolstoy convincingly breaks down into a series of infinitesimally small steps. According to the English writer Virginia Woolf, who took for granted that Tolstoy was “the greatest of all novelists,” these observational powers elicited a kind of fear in readers, who “wish to escape from the gaze which Tolstoy fixes on us.”
Those who visited Tolstoy as an old man also reported feelings of great discomfort when he appeared to understand their unspoken thoughts. It was commonplace to describe him as godlike in his powers and titanic in his struggles to escape the limitations of the human condition. Some viewed Tolstoy as the embodiment of nature and pure vitality, others saw him as the incarnation of the world's conscience, but for almost all who knew him or read his works, he was not just one of the greatest writers who ever lived but a living symbol of the search for life's meaning.
D. H. Lawrence, born in England in 1885, is one of the key figures in literary modernism. Among his most notable novels are Sons and Lovers (1913), Women in Love (1920) and Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928). Kangaroo (1923) was published the year after Lawrence and his wife, Frieda, spent three months in Australia. Lawrence died in France in 1930.
Hector Hugh Munro (1870 1916) was a British author best known by his pen name Saki.
Although he wrote two novels and several political sketches most notably The Westminster Alice, a parody authorized by Carroll's publishers it is his large output of satirical short stories for which he is remembered, and is still considered one of the masters of the genre.
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